This is one of the books I haven’t read before, so I was pretty excited to start on it. I also wasn’t sure if I should include it (and Reflections, and The Tough Guide to Fantasyland) in my list because it’s not fiction. Including the nonfiction would make the completist in me want to look up all the other nonfiction by DWJ not included in Reflections and add those to the list. In the end I added the books, but not the other stuff (not because I didn’t want to, but because time constraints meant that I couldn’t look them all up!)
The Skiver’s Guide is a thin book, not even a hundred pages, with tips on how to avoid doing work. I think I was a little surprised, the first time I found out that DWJ wrote such a thing – not because it wasn’t like her to write something this funny and true, but because I had never heard about it from other blogs/people before then, or saw it listed in those “other books by the author” lists inside her other books. But when I read it, it made perfect sense – not only was it full of things I’ve done at some point of my life, and have observed other people doing; I could see her characters, or the sort of characters she would write about, in her tips.
Divided into sections, she first discussed the various methods and basic rules for skiving, before detailing types of people, from family members (the section on fathers was hilarious, as was the one on dealing with toddlers) to teachers and friends, and the children of parents’ friends. The book seems to say that everyone’s trying to skive or make someone else do stuff, and the main goal is to be trickier and avoid it all. It also details types of chores and how to avoid them specifically, and the section on music practice reminded me so much of Howard from Archer’s Goon.
Overall, I think that while there isn’t much to this book compared to DWJ’s other writing – especially since my copy is only 93 pages long – it’s still imbued with her wit and humour, and would be something I’d enjoy reading very much when I was younger, and much more of a skiver than I am today. Not that I don’t think it’s worth reading as a grown-up – I found myself reading out loud from it to friends, colleagues, and my dad, and it never failed to make anyone laugh. I’ll be getting a copy of this for my niece!